I saw him before he saw me.
He sat on the barstool, hunched over a drink, his back to the busy room. Nondescript black flightsuit, dark hair cropped close - his body language screamed that he wanted to be left alone.
Yeah, well, him and me both.
The only empty stool was the one next to him, but I figured if I ignored him, he'd ignore me. So I circled around the crowded dance floor, claimed my place at the bar and waved at the bartender. It had been a long day and my brain was screaming for alcohol. "Corellian brandy, Essate."
The multi-armed droid beeped an affirmative and trundled off in the direction of the brandy bottles. I picked idly at a shallow gash in the counter as I waited for its return.
"Do I know you?"
Well, well, what do you know. I could have sworn he'd been giving off the `shut up and leave me alone to wallow in my misery' signals. Guess I'm losing my touch. Either that, or I'm too hacked off to pay attention.
"Depends on who you are." I finally dragged my attention away from the stained bar to meet his eyes.
Wow. Just ... wow. A ragged scar tried to mar his features but failed miserably - he was stunning. Not `ruggedly handsome' stunning, or even `intriguingly beautiful' stunning. Stunning, as in `heart-stoppingly gorgeous'. I hoped I wasn't drooling.
The green eyes, perfectly placed in the exquisite face, narrowed slightly. "It's Corran Horn, isn't it? Rogue Squadron."
I was all set with the `yeah, who wants to know' rejoinder, when the words died in my throat. Recognition hit like a torp up the exhaust. "Garrik Loran?"
A wry smile curved his lips as he raised his glass in a somewhat shaky mock-salute. "Yeah, it's me. The Face. Breaker of hearts, minds, and promises." He drained the glass then refilled it from the half-full bottle of whiskey at his elbow.
Someone was out to get seriously smashed.
Essate arrived with my brandy and I fed him enough credits to keep the drink coming for a while. I'd feel like shit in the morning, but at least I wouldn't feel as bad as Loran, judging by the way he was slugging back that whiskey.
I have absolutely no idea what possessed me to start talking to him. It's not like I was in the mood for conversation... Could it have been the Force? Doubt it. Or, if it was, it works in even more mysterious ways than Luke Skywalker knows - or had ever admitted to me, at any rate.
No, I don't think there were any altruistic `let me share your pain' thoughts that underpinned my motives. I was just depressed as hell and felt like venting to the world at large, and to the gorgeous man sitting next to me in particular. I opened my mouth to speak, but he beat me to it.
"You're married, aren't you?"
Zap. Reality bit like a pissed-off bantha. "Yes." The brandy burned a flaming path down my throat. Hopefully it would hit my brain soon. "Very, very married."
"You don't sound too happy about it."
Okay, now I was mad. I'd barely met the guy and here he was, commenting on my marriage, on something he knew absolutely nothing about. I threw back the rest of my drink and turned to give him a piece of my mind.
He wasn't even looking at me. I'd figured, with an inflammatory remark like that, he'd at least be watching for a reaction. He just sat there, holding his glass to his lips as he contemplated the wall behind the bar. Finally he turned and raised a quizzical eyebrow. A `talk to me or shut up, I don't much care' look.
I shrugged. "We've got a pretty open marriage. We both work away a lot, and we decided at the beginning that it would be okay if we saw other people ... well, as long as we kept it quiet."
"What? Was she noisy?"
Sith! The ego on this guy!! "No. It's just ... I got back yesterday from the latest in a long line of shitty missions we've pulled lately, and I find her in bed with three men!" I struggled to keep my voice under control and threw back the last of the brandy in an effort to stop the shaking in my body.
"And it didn't occur to you to jump in and join them?"
The only reason I didn't yell at him or choke on my drink was because ... well ... for a brief moment, standing there in our sunlit bedroom, watching my wife take it from three guys, it HAD actually occurred to me. But she was MY wife, dammit... "No."
"So did she walk out or did you?"
"Me." Yeah, after I'd called her every nasty name I could think of, after she'd yelled at me, after I'd blasted the crap out of the comm unit, after she'd called me a hypocrite... Me, a hypocrite!
Another brandy. Still sober. "Women, huh?"
"Wouldn't know, captain. Haven't touched one in years."
I watched him sip his whiskey, his eyes staring, unseeing, at the opposite wall. "You're not bi, then?" I asked.
"No." He turned vivid green eyes on me. "Would it make any difference?"
"Oh, come on!" He swiveled round to face me, his knee almost touching mine. "You've been hitting on me since you sat down!"
"In your dreams, buddy." Although, now you mention it...
One side of his mouth tilted upwards and his eyes seemed to twinkle with amusement. "Yeah. Right." He swallowed hard and turned back to his whiskey, suddenly morose again. "Like I need you in my dreams."
If there's one thing I can't handle, it's mood swings. I get enough of those at home. Brain says `ignore him', other parts of my anatomy say `like hell you will.' "Hey, some people like to see a Jedi show up in their dreams. Scares the monsters away."
The look he gave me was composed of one hundred percent, pure, unadulterated pain. Eyes glistening with unshed tears, contracted pupils - I watched as his larynx bobbed up and down a couple of times. "A Jedi, huh?" His lips tightened as he returned his attention to his drink. "Don't know that a Jedi would have been much use."
"Whaddaya mean `not much use'. We're damn useful. What are you talking about?"
He drained his glass again and looked longingly at his whiskey bottle, before apparently changing his mind. His voice was low and none too steady when he finally turned toward me once more. "The most important person in my life, the one I loved, the one I would kill or be killed for, died two weeks ago. Shot down on a backwater planet with the most pathetic medical facilities..."
He paused, his eyes creasing with pain. "I went down after him. Found him... eventually..."
I watched him rub a hand over his eyes, and I felt as guilty as hell. My pain was nothing compared to his - Sith, I wasn't even in pain, just angrier than I had a right to be.
"He was still alive then." Green eyes burned into mine. "I could have saved him. I could have surrendered to Zsinj and they would have operated and he would still be alive today."
"Crap." The word was out of my mouth before I could stop it.
"What?!" He looked like he was going to hit me. What the hell - maybe a fight was just what I needed.
"Zsinj isn't stupid, Loran. He'd have figured you and your pal out in no time flat, and you'd both have been up against the wall. And then he'd have gone after the rest of your squadron and wiped them out, too."
It was weird. The anger just seemed to drain out of him and his head drooped forward over his glass. "That's what he said," he whispered. "Before he died. Before I had to..."
There was nothing I could say, no words that would ease his pain. Without thinking, I put down my brandy glass and edged my fingers towards him, just barely brushing his arm. His right hand snaked towards mine and we touched, fingertips to fingertips.
His eyes met mine. "Do you have somewhere to sleep tonight?"
"I could go home, I guess." Even as the words left my mouth, I knew it wasn't going to happen. Mirax needed more than a few hours to cool down.
"Do you want to go home?"
The self-satisfied smile was back, if somewhat diminished. His thumb brushed the length of my index finger. "I have a room in this building. Twenty-jay-two-four. You're welcome to stay." He was obviously trying for casual indifference, but it came over as more of a plea, his voice cracking mid-sentence.
My brain went into overdrive as I considered his offer. For a start, I wasn't sure exactly what his offer was - floor-space, a bed for the night, something more... Seriously, I wasn't convinced I wanted anything `more' - it had been weeks ... months since I'd been with another man.
The indecision must have shown on my face. He stood up, his expression aloof once again. "Whatever you want to do, captain. The offer stands." His hand came to rest surreptitiously on my thigh, sending a jolt of heat right through to the muscle, and those powerful green eyes met my own. "See you."
I couldn't tear my eyes away from his back as he departed, head held high and, apart from a slightly circuitous route to the exit, no outward sign that he was roaring drunk. He stopped in the doorway, his body sent into silhouette by the brightly colored lights from outside. I held my breath as he turned his head, that immaculate profile there for all to see.
Then he was gone.
My hand was actually shaking as I lifted my glass to my lips and I quickly drained the brandy. Still too sober for a decision. Essate obligingly set another glass of amber liquor in front of me.
I don't know how long I stood outside the door, staring at the symbols etched into its silver surface. Twenty-jay-two-four. My alcohol-soaked mind registered that it was the correct door, yet I still wasn't entirely convinced that I shouldn't just turn back to the lift and leave. Maybe Mirax would have calmed down by now and was either asleep or waiting up, ready to forgive my harsh words and violent reaction...
Yeah, right. Real likely.
My hand reached out of its own volition and pressed the door announcer.
I hit it again, more forcefully.
Still nothing. No answering voice, no sound of movement ... nothing. Crap. He'd gone out again. Or not come home in the first place. A dozen scenarios zipped through my brain, most of them involving him picking up some cute guy and...
The door opened, snapping me out of my reverie ... and I just stared. Wearing nothing but a pair of black shorts and a confused expression, he ran a hand through mussed hair and squinted into the light of the corridor. "Oh, it's you."
I forced myself to focus on his face. "Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."
"I wasn't really sleeping." He turned and walked into the darkness of the room. "Come on in."
"Are you sure? I can find somewhere else to sleep if you want..."
He stopped at the huge window and stared at the city lights outside. "No. I invited you - you might as well stay."
Well, thanks for the enthusiasm.
As my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I looked around my room for the night. It was dominated by a large, rumpled bed; the twisted white sheeting proclaimed its occupant's insomnia. An empty sidetable, a chair almost hidden under a heap of clothes, a two-seater couch - not much else. One other door I assumed was the refresher.
"Would you like a magnifier to check for ranats?"
My head snapped up. "Sorry. Force of habit. Used to be in Corsec."
He crossed his arms and leaned against the window; his face was still in shadow, but his voice held hints of amusement. At least, I think it did. "Well, officer, I swear I'm innocent. Most of the time."
I muttered another apology and indicated the compact sofa. "Should I sleep there?"
Biceps and pectorals briefly stood out as he pushed himself away from the window. "Up to you. Bed's plenty big enough." He tilted his head to one side. "Assuming you trust me, of course."
Trust? Trust him to do what? Trust was what I felt for my wingmate, my squadron, my tech crew. I trusted they'd keep me flying and shoot the bad guys off my tail. Did I trust this guy not to kill me in my sleep? I watched him as he shrugged and walked back to the bed. Nice ass. "Yeah, I trust you."
"Good." He crawled across the bed and turned his back to me, pulling the sheets up to his chin. "G'night."
Hmm. Okay. Don't know what I expected, but that definitely wasn't it. His behavior in the bar had implied he was at least going to try to jump me. I was surprised at the hint of disappointment I felt.
The silence of the room contrasted with the buzzing in my brain. Too much brandy. I closed my eyes and let the weight of an emotionally draining day saturate my body; suddenly I felt very tired.
I opened my eyes again; Face hadn't budged, and was now making little breathy noises that I guessed meant he was falling asleep. I stripped off to my shorts, piling my clothes on one end of the couch - then I thought `what the hell' and took off my shorts too. I could never get a good night's sleep unless I was nude.
The coverings were slightly warm when I crawled under them, but the pillow was cool against my cheek. I was asleep within seconds.
But not for long.
It felt like a miniature quake, the whole bed shaking with tiny spasms. Eventually I managed to open first one eye, then the other.
It was him, Loran.
Initially I thought he was crying; his shoulders were shuddering rhythmically and I could hear him whimpering. I reached out to touch him, then changed my mind, my hand dropping short of his back. "Are you okay?"
"I ... I can't..." More shuddering. "I need to ... but I can't..."
"Can't what?" I edged closer, still unsure if I should touch him.
He took a shaky breath. "I can't ... it won't..." Another deep breath.
Something in the way he was moving caught my eye, the regular motion of his shoulder creating a pattern familiar to anyone who's ever shared a bed with a man. I moved up to his back and stroked his upper arm. Thought so. "You can't get yourself off?"
"It's never happened to me before!" The arm slowed but continued its rhythmic pumping. "Ton just had to look at me, to touch me, and I'd be half way there."
I rubbed my hand up and down his arm, trying to slow his pace before he damaged himself. "And you've not had sex since he died?"
He glared at me over his shoulder, eyes red-rimmed and tearful. "I'm not a total slut. He only died two weeks ago."
"People cope with death in lots of ways." I shrugged, my arm creeping a little lower.
His eyes narrowed and his arm actually slowed. "You've lost someone, haven't you?"
"I've lost lots of people."
"And did you...?"
"Does it help?"
"Oh." His attention turned back to the task at hand.
"Let me help." My hand closed gently over his; he froze, then slowly slipped his hand from under mine. At least the shorts were already gone.
He wasn't totally soft, but he wasn't properly hard, either. I carefully stroked him and pressed a few kisses to his shoulder. "Relax." Finally he twitched under my hand and a short, low moan escaped his lips, sending a shiver straight down my spine. I was steel-hard instantly.
He twisted his face towards me again; I lifted my head from his shoulder, wondering what he would say. He didn't utter a word. Just wrapped his now-free hand around my neck and pulled me in for a mind-blowing kiss.
Face Loran has a beautiful mouth. And he knows exactly how to use it.
Of course, it couldn't last. Kissing someone at that angle is okay for a minute or two, but then it just gets downright uncomfortable.
And apart from that, my erection was getting squashed and his wasn't hardening quickly enough.
I pushed him onto his back and rapidly mouthed my way down his body, over smooth skin, hard nipples, taut abdominal muscles... Sith, even his navel is perfectly formed!
I paused when I reached his groin and looked up to check I wasn't making a complete fool of myself. His hands gripped the top of the bed, his eyes squeezed closed and his lips parted. Oh, yeah - he wanted this alright. Even if he was thinking about his dead lover, I didn't care. He was amazing. Amazing and rock-hard. I went down on him like a starving man at a banquet.
There's a technique to deep-throating someone, and I was taught it many years ago by Baccaria Tarase, one of the best hookers on Corellia, and her `nephew', Benat. It's one of my lesser-known talents. I closed my eyes and swallowed him down as far as I could.
It's incredibly gratifying to make someone scream with pleasure, although it doesn't usually happen so quickly. Poor kid was desperate. I pulled back a little and just sucked for a while, watching him squirm and pant - he never opened his eyes, not once.
Finally I closed my own eyes and stretched out with my feelings; not to read his mind, just to touch his emotions. I could sense him struggling to hold back his impending climax, trying to draw it out. He needed the release but, well, I needed something, too. He groaned, first in disappointment when my mouth left him, then in delight as I turned him onto his stomach and kneed his legs apart. I admired his cute ass as it rose up to meet me, then gave it a slap. "Hey, where's the lube?"
One hand snaked out and pointed to a dispenser by the bed. Convenient. I slathered a handful of the stuff over both of us and considered how much preparation he'd need. A loud groan as he pushed back towards me gave me my answer - not a lot. I let my right hand slide gently over his back, caressing the length of his spine, admiring the movement of muscle under skin.
When I reached his tailbone, he pushed back once more. "Now," he growled.
Always happy to oblige. There was a short, sharp moment of resistance, then his body yielded to mine.
Beautiful. Intense. Exquisite.
He moaned and swore and groaned and clenched his fists in the pillows. I just gritted my teeth and attempted to screw him into the bed. The pain and anger I'd been feeling for a day and a half, as well as the frustration and stress that went with my job, dissipated like mist on a warm day. Each thrust drove another demon away, wiped out another bad memory ... and made me feel damn good. I came fast and hard, then held him tightly as he finally climaxed, sobbing his relief.
Afterwards we just sat quietly, him with his back against the top of the bed, me between his thighs, leaning back against his warm chest. It had been a long time since I'd felt so relaxed.
His arms encircled me and I smiled as he kissed the nape of my neck. "Of course, I could never love someone like you," he whispered. "You're too serious. Not my type at all."
"You've not exactly been a bundle of laughs yourself," I replied, my eyes still firmly closed.
"No, I guess I haven't." He pressed a cheek to my shoulder and I could feel the warm trickle of a tear as it slipped from his skin to mine. "I miss Ton."
"You've got to go apologize to your wife, Corran. Don't stay angry at her, don't let her think you care so little..."
"I will. I'll go first thing in the morning."
"You'll stay the rest of the night?" He actually sounded incredulous.
"Of course. I don't screw and run."
"Yeah. Thanks for that."
"You're welcome. Always glad to help out a fellow pilot."
"Sure. You're a real altruist." He blew out a sigh, tickling my neck. "What are you going to do the next time you fall out with your wife?"
"Don't know. Try to keep my temper, I guess."
"You could always give me a call."
"Probably not such a good idea, Face. Much as I'd love to do this again, I've got to stop running from my problems."
"I didn't mean that." His teeth nipped at my shoulder. "I meant I could come over to your place. You two could ... umm ... sort out your differences, and I could keep her bedmates entertained..."
I laughed as I turned to face him. "What if they're straight?"
"Three of them?!" he replied, eyes wide with mock horror. "How likely is that?"
So cute. "C'mon. We should get some sleep."
"Yeah." He leaned in to kiss me.
I kissed him back.
We did get some sleep.
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